148. Memorandum for the Record0

[Here follows discussion of forthcoming travel and scheduled meetings of administration officials, U.S. policy toward Venezuela, and military assistance procedures.]

6. Strategic Policy Papers. Cooper used the discussion on the State Department to remind Bundy that some of Rostow’s strategic policy papers1 were reaching the point of signature, and he wondered whether the White House was prepared to accept them or whether the work would have been in vain. He said that if the papers were not used, a lot of [Page 538] talented and well-meaning bureaucrats would be dissatisfied; they would have spent long months working on them for nothing. On the other hand, if they were to be used, the procedures for getting them approved as outlined by Rostow should be carefully scrutinized.

This led to a long discussion—one of several in the last few months—on the Rostow papers, and there is no other subject that makes Bundy’s staff bristle as much as this one. The exchanges, as they seldom do, become sharp and direct. Bundy himself, concerned essentially with operational matters, seems not to believe the papers will be of much value in determining policies because they may be out of date before they are finished. His basic approach, as he admitted today, has been that since he could not stop the Rostow papers from being developed, he could, if necessary, ignore them. Other people at the table, who are more planners than operators—Ken Hansen,2 for example—think the papers may have some value. But the issues are seldom joined directly. Instead they flit by in shorthand remarks.

The discussion was fairly long and, as noted, at times caustic. It dealt essentially with three questions, although in no particular logical sequence: (1) Are the Rostow papers worth the trouble? (2) How will they be approved? and (3) What will their relation be to the Long Range Assistance Strategies and the Internal Defense Plans?3

With respect to their value, the consensus was that, quite naturally, some will be good and some bad. If the split is 50-50, that will be about what is expected. The good ones should be used, the poor ones junked. Bundy thought that some attrition would be beneficial in order to set a standard. With respect to level of approval, Bundy seemed to think, and everyone agreed, that this would depend upon the subject of the paper and its interest in the White House. Some papers could be approved by the departments and need go no further. Others should come to the White House, this determination being made by the White House staff officer responsible for the country under study. Bundy looked on the White House role as being the right to intervene without any obligation to do so. He agreed with Bromley Smith’s point that no procedure should be established which allowed only disagreements to come forward. The President is often as interested in what the department heads have agreed on as he is on what they disagreed. In other words, if the White House is interested, it will be interested across-the-board. Bundy closed this phase of the discussion by saying that he would closely review the [Page 539] Rostow-proposed procedures for approving the papers to see that they meet White House needs.4

Although the relationship of the Rostow papers to the Long Range Assistance Strategies and the Internal Defense Plans has not yet been completely decided, the Secretary of State has said that these latter two documents should be folded into the strategic policy studies. Given the view that the Secretary of State should take stronger control over foreign affairs, the White House staff feels that it cannot very well object to a Secretary of State decision to do just that in case of the Rostow papers, although the Rostow approach is not considered necessarily the best way to proceed.

One major objection Bundy referred to several times, possibly because Hansen kept mentioning the potential budget impact of these papers, was that the Rostow documents could not be programming documents. He said you could not make programming decisions in a policy document and, when asked where these would be made, did not answer directly, although it was clear he believed they would be made in the budget. Bundy made another interesting (and valid) observation in stating that there should not be a Rostow paper for every country. There are some countries where the policy could be set by the Secretary of State, and other, less important, countries where the policy could be effectively set by a level even below the Secretary of State. The Principals just would not have time to acquaint themselves intimately with the details of each country.

In summary, the discussion reached no recognized conclusions, and the role of the strategic policy papers remains unsettled, although it seems they may be more important than Bundy now wishes.5 (I believe he recognizes this, which partially explains his irritation when they are discussed.) [Page 540] At any rate, I suggest that the JCS look the Rostow papers over carefully when they are referred for comment.

7. Bundy’s Status. In the discussion of putting material on cards for the President,6 it seemed to me this was not Bundy’s way of operating. Later, in the MLF discussion, he repeated a remark he has made several times lately, that a decision will have to be made as to whether the White House will continue to monitor certain programs closely or whether they will be left to the State Department. Klein, who is more sensitive to these things than I, also connected Bundy’s remark on publishing President Kennedy’s letter to the State Department,7 telling the Secretary to take over foreign affairs if he wished, as yet another sign of Bundy’s uncertain status at present. The only conclusion I can reach thus far is that the issue of Bundy’s retention perhaps is not yet completely settled. In an earlier report, I believe I commented that Bundy could well end up with more power if he stays. It is not inconsistent to add that if he sees himself with much less power, he will decide to go.

  1. Source: National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Chairman’s Staff Group, December 1963. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Major Smith.
  2. The Strategic Country Studies were by this time known officially as National Policy Papers.
  3. Assistant Director of the Bureau of the Budget.
  4. These were series of country policy papers prepared under the auspices of the Agency for International Development and the Special Group (Counter-Insurgency), respectively.
  5. In a memorandum to Department of State officials dated December 2, Rostow stated that on November 19 Rusk had approved a recommendation that he review and formally sign National Policy Papers “following their approval by the appropriate interdepartmental committee under the Chairmanship of an Assistant Secretary of State.” (Department of State, S/S-NSC Files: Lot 70 D 265, Basic National Security Policy 1963) A manual of procedures issued on January 6, 1964, for the national policy papers prescribed signature by the Secretary of State after a lengthy interagency approval process which was to include some White House participation. (Johnson Library, National Security File, Agency File, Department of State, Policy Planning Volume I)
  6. On December 24, Rostow stated in a memorandum to Rusk that the “town tends to view the seriousness of any program in accordance with the nature of the directive creating it” and recommended, with support from the Department of Defense and AID, that the directive establishing procedures for the national policy papers be issued in the form of an NSAM. (Department of State, S/P Files: Lot 70 D 199, Planning 1963) Rusk approved this procedure on January 7, 1964, and on February 11 McGeorge Bundy signed NSAM No. 281, addressed to 13 agency heads, which stated that the President had “vested in the Secretary of State the responsibility for the promulgation of certain national policy papers.” (Ibid., S/S-NSC Files: Lot 72 D 316, NSAM 281)
  7. This is a reference to discussion in the omitted portion of memorandum.
  8. Not further identified.